The Great Relationship
There are many styles of sermons out there. You have thematic. Those are sermons that are based on a certain theme and scripture is tied into it. You have scripturally based sermons, which are sermons based off a specific pieces of scripture. You have narrative sermons. These are sermons that are done in a story telling fashion, say a retelling of the parable of the prodigal son but using modern day references and told from the first person. Then you have doctrinal sermons. These are sermons that are based on the doctrine of the church, the dogma, or foundations of what we as a church, as United Methodists believe. Today is one of those Sundays.
Today is Trinity Sunday. It is always Trinity Sunday after Pentecost Sunday. Trinity Sunday is a time to sit back and celebrate and observe the uniqueness of our God. A couple of weeks ago in a sermon I preached I told you all the name of our God. Do you remember? Our God’s name is the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. That is the name of our God. Other religions have their name for their God but ours is unique, it is Trinity. The Trinity is the doctrinal center of our faith. We worship a triune God. If you take one of the pieces away from the Trinity you are not left with the God that we worship.
There are tons of examples that are used to try and tell or teach people about the Trinity. I used one during the children’s moment. There are others. For example, we say that our God is like an egg. You have the shell, the white stuff and the yoke. The egg is like the Trinity, each part is separate and distinct but they all are still egg. I am not too fond of that one because I don’t think it captures the nature of the Trinity extremely well. There are others out there. The one I think I like the most is that the Trinity is like H2O. Two hydrogen and one oxygen molecules come together to form one of the basic needs of human existence, water. Water comes in three forms. You have the liquid state which we all need and drink daily. But at 32 degrees Fahrenheit or 0 degrees Celsius H2O becomes frozen and we call it ice. At 212 degrees Fahrenheit and 100 degrees Celsius H2O boils and turns into something called vapor, or steam. Those are the three different ways H2O can exists in this world. When you break, ice, water and steam down you still have H2O, yet they look and act different.
That is the best way I can describe the Trinity to someone although many theologians will poke holes in that example too. The reason they do that is because we are trying to take a human mind and using human words to describe a divine being. We are trying to describe the indescribable and no matter what, we will always fall short. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep trying to find different ways to communicate what our God is like but we also need to understand that we will never reach the perfect example either. Our God is too big to be trapped by our limited human brains.
We want to trap God though. We would love it if we could trap God into a little box that we could hold in our hands and pull out when we needed it. We, as humans, would like that but we cannot. The world still tries though. We live in a society that tells us that God is generic and private. In fact we throw the word God around quite often but we don’t even realize what we are doing. On our money it says “In God we Trust” but there is no specific example of who that God is. In the pledge of allegiance, we say “one nation under God” but which God are we under. God is the generic nickname we use for the God we worship. Our God is Trinity, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Our God is not generic and private, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is communal, relational, interwoven and specific.
To repeat myself, the Trinity is the doctrinal foundation or center of our faith. Knowing this, what does that tell us about the God we worship? Because we worship a three in one God we know that our God is all about relationships. I once was asked what is the best piece of advice or wisdom you have ever been given. My father worked with a gentleman who had a certain mantra about business which I think goes beyond the business world. My father liked the saying and uses quiet often. The piece of wisdom, “it’s all about relationships.” This is definitely true in the business world. Whether you work as a salesman, cashier, manager, or factory worker, it is all about relationships. If you want good clients you need to have good relationships with them. If you are a worker you want to be in a good relationship with your boss and if you are a boss you should desire to be in a good relationship with the people you manage.
The business world today tells us that this idea is not followed everywhere. In today’s society, pensions, health care packages, and jobs themselves are tossed around on the board rooms table without blinking an eye. It is common business practice for companies to revoke pensions and health care for retirees because all of a sudden they are not making enough profit. People are working, not because they have pride in what they are doing, but trying to make sure they are an asset to the company in order to stay with them. The relationships that are being built in cooperate America are not healthy ones. Good or bad, it is all about relationships.
This piece of wisdom goes beyond the business world and speaks to us in regular life as well. I would go as far to say that “life is all about relationships.” When two people meet for the first time, especially two men, one of the first questions that will be asked to spark small talk is, “so what do you do?” What we do in our lives tends to define us to others. What it does is demonstrates to the other person the types of relationships we have without getting all mushy about it. I’m going to list a couple types of professions and I am guessing that you can automatically think of the type of relationship qualities of that specific job. Here we go. Nurse: if you are like me your mind automatically went to a nurturing, caring, and gentle person. We have this preconceived notion that a nurse has a certain type of relationships with his/her patients. Let’s try another one, Lawyer. Now this one is a little tricky. We automatically think that a lawyer is egotistical, maybe overbearing, opinionative, or at least argumentative. This once again demonstrates the person’s relational skills and slaps them with our preconceived stereotype.
Now what we do for a living is simply an example but our lives are defined by relationships. Let me use a couple words to describe myself and walk you through my life. See if you follow the way relationships defined who I am. First, I started off in this world as a Son, then a brother, a friend, a Senior Patrol Leader, a student, a boyfriend, a college student, a seminary student, a roommate, a fiancée, a husband, a minister, a youth pastor, a father, and a preacher. Each one of these words helps define who I am. I am still all of them but each one points to a type of relationship I have. Relationships define who I am and they define who you are. We don’t have relationships, relationships are who we are. (Willimon, p.31) At our core, we are relationships and that is because at the core of God, is relationships. It is all about relationships.
The Triune God, the Trinity, is a God that is always in relationships with itself. The Father is the Father, the creator, the nurturer, the source of power. The Son is the son but also the redeemer, the sacrifice, the lamb. The Holy Spirit is the dove, the tongue of fire, the sustainer, the comforter, the counselor. Each way we describe the different parts of the Trinity points to the relationship that part has with us and each other. They all have different aspects yet they all are still one. At the heart of God is a relationship with each part of the Trinity and with us.
It is really hard to describe the Trinity and to explain it. Yet Charles Wesley, in one of his hymns, nailed it on the head. He said, “You whom he ordained to be Transcripts of the Trinity.” The best way to describe the Trinity is to look at what the Trinity created in its image, us. We are the ones who were formed into the likeness of the Triune God. We are the ones who are God’s special creation. It was us that the Trinity breathed into and gave a soul that mirrored their own.
Now some of you might be asking, what does the scripture you read have anything to do with this? What does, what is known as the Great Commission, have to do with Trinity Sunday? The eleven disciples were called up to a mountain top to visit with the resurrected Jesus. This is pivotal and climax of Matthew’s Gospel. These are the last words Matthew records that Jesus tells his disciples. On that mountain top he tells them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
In Christ’s final words to his handpicked disciples he tells them about the relationships he is calling them and us to have. We are called by the Triune God to go out into the world and tell others about God. We are to bring them into relationships with God through Baptism and discipleship. We are to do this not in our name or our church’s name but in the name of the one who sent us, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This gives credit where credit is due. It is not by our power that we are able to do any of this; it is only through the Triune God we worship, follow, and love.
One of the most comforting verses in the entire Bible is the last thing Jesus tells them. He says he will always be with us even to the end of the age. We can be fearless in our building relationships with others because we will never be without Jesus Christ. We are never alone. God is never absent. We are in a constant relationship with the one who sent us. We walk hand in hand through every aspect of life which gives us the confidence, the power, the authority, and the ability to live out the life we are a called to live. This wouldn’t be possible if the Trinity didn’t exist. This wouldn’t be possible if we were not created in that Trinity’s image. It wouldn’t be possible if we weren’t built to live on relationships. It is all about relationships. We are all about relationships. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit is all about relationships.
And all God’s people said…Amen.
Willimon, Will, Pulpit Resource. Vol. 36, No. 2, Year A, April, May, June 2008. Logos Production Inc. 2008.